After losing successive UEFA Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001, Valencia CF are hoping to win a first European trophy since their UEFA Cup Winners' Cup victory in 1980 when they tackle Olympique de Marseille in Gothenburg.
Fresh from their coronation as the champions of Spain, Rafael Benítez's side are looking to extinguish the pain of those past final defeats and crown a truly remarkable season by securing the UEFA Cup. Their campaign began in September with 1-0 victories in each leg of their first-round tie against AIK Solna. Maccabi Haifa FC proved obdurate in the first leg of the second round, escaping the Mestalla with a goalless draw.
Valencia gave a glimpse of the brand of football which would see them sweep aside the likes of Real Madrid CF in Spain, though, by scoring four goals without replay at a neutral venue in the Netherlands. Besiktas JK were brushed aside in the next stage and Los Che drew another Turkish team in round four, Gençlerbirligi SK. After going down 1-0 in Ankara, Valencia triumphed 1-0 over 90 minutes at the Mestalla before Vicente Rodríguez's silver goal four minutes into extra time.
Gençlerbirligi would be the only side to beat Valencia in the competition, but FC Girondins de Bordeaux came close to repeating the upset in the quarter-final match at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, leading 1-0 with 15 minutes to go until goals from Rubén Baraja and Francisco Rufete wrested the game away from the home side, who had Antonio Mavuba sent off. The home leg also ended 2-1, although the Spanish side were never in danger after establishing a two-goal lead.
The east coast of Spain prepared itself for a 'Euroderbi' in the semi-finals as Valencia took on neighbours Villarreal CF. The first leg was a thriller at the El Madrigal with end-to-end football delighting a vociferous crowd but producing no goals. Benítez fielded youngsters Xisco Muñoz and Mohamed Sissoko in the return and both impressed as Valencia won through to the final thanks to Mista's 16th-minute penalty.
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